Air pollution and woodburners: some home truths
‘WOODBURNERS will be banned’ – you’ve definitely seen headlines like these in the media in recent months.
And why not? Nothing beats a bit of sensationalism for a newspaper to sell a few more copies. Even if the headline isn’t telling the truth.
The problem with this type of fake news is that people can start believing it and it’s challenging to wade against the artificial tide of falsehoods.
Let’s be clear about this – woodburners will NOT be banned. The Government’s Clean Air Strategy was 100 per cent clear about that and if some journalists had actually bothered to look at the documents, they would have written accurate articles instead of the sloppy lies we’ve all had to endure.
What IS happening is that the most polluting fuels such as coal are likely to be banned. Dry wood with a moisture content of 20 per cent or less will still be available as fuel and clean woodburners continue to be used – that’s the official line from Defra.
Still not sure?
This is a direct quote by Defra about the Clean Air Strategy 2019: “We are not considering banning domestic burning. The government recognises that households have installed wood-burning stoves and the government is not seeking to prevent their use or installation. But we are keen to encourage consumers to switch to cleaner burning. This will directly benefit consumers in their homes, as well as improving the local environment.”
And another comment by Defra: “We will legislate to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels. We will ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022. We will make changes to existing smoke control legislation to make it easier to enforce. We will give new powers to local authorities to take action in areas of high pollution.”
And if you’re wondering if keeping woodburners is still a good idea, Defra also says: “Using cleaner fuels, in a cleaner appliance which is installed by a competent person, knowing how to operate it efficiently, and ensuring that chimneys are regularly swept, will all make a big difference.”
There you go – you can continue to use your woodburner! If you still have questions about this, and you live in Tunbridge Wells or nearby area of Kent – contact James the Sweep on 07587 134589.
Reassurance for local residents
CHIMNEY sweeping in Royal Tunbridge Wells… chimney sweeping in Southborough… chimney sweeping in Crowborough – if you are a frequent visitor to the website or social media of James the Sweep, you will have seen these phrases often enough.
In fact, you have probably read that James the Sweep is the Master Chimney Sweep for Tunbridge Wells and similar such claims. It can all sound a bit outlandish but why? Why are such statements made?
It’s to do with the difference between an experienced and well-trained chimney sweep – and cowboys. James the Sweep has been sweeping chimneys in the wider Kent and East Sussex area for 20 years. You simply can’t beat that level of professional experience. He has also passed a number of industry training courses, such as those set by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. Not only that, but James has received numerous recommendations by satisfied customers over the years. Have a peek at his testimonials page.
What does that all mean? Reassurance. It’s reassuring for you as a resident living in James’ local area to know that you can call on him anytime to inspect your indoor fire set-up and sweep the chimney. He is diligent in ensuring your household is risk-free from carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires, as far as your chimney is concerned.
If you’ve read this and you’re thinking, ‘Should I phone him about my chimney?’ Just grab your phone and make the call. Honestly, one call is all it takes to get the job done properly. James charges £60 per sweep as a standard rule and he’d be happy to help you so that you can enjoy your woodburner or open fire with peace of mind.
Kent Fire & Rescue Service says: “The chimney is essentially a household exhaust pipe — funnelling away soot, smoke, gases, hot ashes and sparks — sweeping should be an essential part of home maintenance. This will help protect against blockages, smoke leaks, inadequate ventilation, insufficient draw, down-draught and tar build-up.”
James the Sweep sweeps chimneys in Kentish and East Sussex local areas such as Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Pembury, Southborough, Sevenoaks, Hildenborough, Crowborough, Hadlow, Maidstone and Paddock Wood.
Storing firewood: some simple tips
STORING firewood correctly makes a big difference to enjoying efficient fires, which are better for the environment and save you money – and the opposite: ineffective fires, causing pollution and costing more.
The good news is that there’s some simple ABC steps you can take to get the most out of your firewood. This is advice that James the Sweep gives customers in the towns that he covers: Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Sevenoaks, Hildenborough, Pembury, Maidstone, Paddock Wood, Crowborough, Hadlow and Maidstone.
Firstly, make sure the logs are stacked in a proper wood store outside with a roof for protection from bad weather but open sides so that they can be kept dry but ventilated. You can cut them up further yourself when the wood is fresh: aim for five inches wide in shape. That makes it easier to cut rather than wait until the wood is old. It will also help the wood to dry and ideally we are aiming for a moisture content of 20 per cent or less (a moisture meter will help you know; if you split the wood and test the surface). Don’t just throw the logs together either, stack them properly. It should only take between six months and a year to get the moisture content to that 20 per cent mark. But that will only happen if the wood is properly stored as outlined above. By the way, ignore ‘seasoned’ wood. It doesn’t count for anything – the moisture level is the important thing. ‘Ready to burn’ logs usually have the right moisture level but may be more expensive.
It may surprise you that five inches wide is the best size for fire logs. Larger logs, in fact, cost you more money because the burn rate is lower, which makes them less effective as a heat source. Larger logs also cause more harm to the environment.
Any wood can be good enough to burn as long as there is no contamination with products such as plastic or other substances. Pure wood is what we want to burn. Of course, some types of wood naturally do tend to burn better and James the Sweep has provided a guide to types of wood here.
You should find that by properly organising and storing your dry wood, it helps organise your indoor fire set-up so that you can enjoy safe, efficient, cost-effective fires as a reliable heat source.
Caring for your chimney flue liner
CUSTOMERS often ask James the Sweep about how to care for a flue liner installed inside a chimney flue. And if they don’t, James will respectfully offer the information anyway because it’s an important part of caring for your indoor fire set-up.
Every chimney situation is different and consumers will have different flue liners installed: stainless steel for example, which is a bit like a sleeve. Or perhaps a flue liner agent which is more akin in layman’s terms to a concrete substance smeared smoothly over the inside of the flue, such as Thermocrete or Eldfast.
Whichever flue liner option you agree with your installer, it’s important to protect the chimney. Acid corrosion caused by indoor fires and the effects of weather such as frost can damage the brickwork and joints over time. And that’s not good because it also puts your household at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from indoor fire gas seeping through cracks.
What can you do then to care for your flue liner?
First – make sure the original installation was done correctly. James the Sweep has too often seen stoves and flue liners, which were not fitted correctly. And that includes the finer details, which only a professional would understand. The trend for finished reproduction fireplaces, for example, can often include a steel or cast fireback within the insert – but that conflicts with the components of British Standards. A cowboy installer could set that up for you and set off with a gleeful smile on his face, his pockets jingling with the cash you’ve just given him. In fact, he’s just installed an indoor fire which has little efficiency and will lead to more of a draught in the room. This is just one of numerous examples where professional knowledge is essential. Flue liners cannot be installed with a bit of slapdash. That’s why James the Sweep will only recommend certain installers in the counties of Kent and East Sussex to you. It’s difficult for a customer to know if an installation is done well. Although James does not fit liners, he can point you in the right direction.
Second – Regular sweeping. Never ever use an indoor fire if the flue liner is not swept properly. Always check with James the Sweep as to how often sweeping is needed. We want to ensure that the flue liner is in excellent shape to withstand pressures of the fire and to keep it clear of any creosote obstruction, so that your household will be safe. Regular chimney sweeping is a MUST.
Third – Use the correct fuel for your liner. If your liner is meant for gas only because you have a gas stove, don’t burn wood! You should also be aware of the different types of wood if you have a woodburner and take some time to re-educate yourself on how to set an indoor wood fire alight properly, to save your expenses and to help the environment. Ask your installer about how to use correct fuel. Wood should always have a moisture content of 20 per cent or less. James gives advice to residents all over the county, such as Tunbridge Wells, Southborough and the like, so do ask him for free advice.
In summary, the best way to care for your flue liner is to make sure it is properly fitted in the first place (also check your appliance is fitted professionally); keep the chimney swept regularly and use the correct fuel for your appliance. You may need protection at the top of the chimney via a cowl or pot and James the Sweep can give further advice. Best of all – don’t worry about the flue liner. If you book regular appointments with James, he can do all the worrying for you!
If you have any questions about your chimney flue liner, please get in touch with James the Sweep today. It’s important that you enjoy your indoor fire safely as a heat source.
Where was Ol’ Sweepy heading?
IF YOU happened to be driving in the northern parts of Kent last weekend you will have noticed the county’s Master Sweep – James the Sweep – tootling along in his work van, aka Ol’ Sweepy, with plenty of sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper stacked-up on the passenger seat.
Why was James heading out of the county? Where was he going? His van is a familiar sight on the streets of Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Southborough and the like. So why did James disappear for a couple of days – and then reappear in the borders of Kent with a stack of gleaming new chimney sweeping brushes in the back of Ol’ Sweepy?
What a mystery… well, the answer is simple: James attended the annual Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps Trade Exhibition 2019 near Kenilworth. James is a longstanding member of the Guild and the yearly event gave him a chance to buy new chimney sweeping equipment so that he can better serve his many customers in T Wells, Maidstone, Pembury, Paddock Wood and other towns, as above.
The trade show also allowed James to talk business with other Guild members and keep abreast with industry developments, which is so important as the Government’s Clean Air Strategy – very supportive of chimney sweeping – continues to develop. James was able to get an update on the BurnRight campaign, which he strongly supports because it informs customers about how to burn an indoor fire efficiently.
We are still in March and there is a chill in the air. If your chimney has not been swept you and our family could die from a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. So if you live in Kent or East Sussex, don’t delay – book a sweep right now with James on 07587 134589.
Test CO alarms regularly – what does that mean?
YOU’VE probably heard this saying often enough (and more likely than not from James the Sweep, Master Sweep for Tunbridge Wells!).
“Make sure you buy a carbon monoxide alarm and then test it regularly.”
Oh right, you may think, and then put it down on the list of Things To Do.
But what does that actually mean? It’s easy to hear these things and to not really take them on board.
It really means three things:  Make sure you buy an efficient carbon monoxide detector. It should be a standard to EN 50291 from a reputable supplier. You can expect to pay about 20 pounds for a good detector.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions by checking the alarm is working once per week. ‘Test it Tuesday’ is a handy way to remember to test the alarm every Tuesday!  Don’t just have a CO alarm at home. Also have a portable CO alarm which you can take with you on holiday – to keep you safe if you are camping or on a canal boat, or similar.
Carbon monoxide is an invisible danger wherever a solid fuel is being burnt and it makes sense to always be monitoring the situation, so that you will be fully aware of any poisoning threat. Medical professionals even find it hard to diagnose CO poisoning as the initial symptoms can be like having a cold or the flu. So please be active yourself in making sure this gas does not cause harm to you and your loved ones.
Of course there’s an even more important point: don’t just rely on your CO alarm. Carbon monoxide is difficult to detect, it doesn’t smell and it can kill you in no time at all. The best way to combat this evil gas, which is produced as a result of an indoor fire, is to prevent it causing harm in the first place. That means, very simply, booking your regular chimney sweep with James the Sweep. A clean chimney means a CO-free chimney. Remember that James covers the wider Kent and East Sussex area including Maidstone, T Wells, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Hadlow, Paddock Wood, Pembury, Southborough, Crowborough and Hildenborough.
Basic advice about wood briquettes
Why does James give advice to customers?
So.. the doorbell rings and you open it to see James the Sweep on your doorstep armed with his power sweeping brushes – he’s arrived on time (always does) and gives you a friendly greeting.
You show him into the room, often the lounge, where the fireplace sits and let James do his ‘thing’ – inspecting the indoor fire set-up and the state of the chimney flue and flue liner (if you have a liner). James sets to work, if all is well, cleaning the chimney using his brushes, once the clean, fresh dust sheets have been laid down carefully.
And at some point, it’s likely that James will give you some advice. Polite advice but advice nonetheless, about the importance of regular chimney sweeping. If there are any other issues – the fire stove or open fire not being fit for purpose, for example – James will be honest with you about it. He will also suggest any remedial action, which needs to be taken.
Why does James give advice to customers? Why doesn’t he just keep quiet and waggle his power sweeping brushes (waggle isn’t a technical term but you get the idea!) up the chimney flue.
Well, the reason is simply that James is concerned about you. His sole focus, when he knocks on the door, isn’t about getting the job done quickly, or whether you’ll have a mug of tea waiting (although if you do want to prepare: it’s a fairly strong brew with one sugar in Winter, and tap water otherwise because James is super-quick and the tea would not cool down in time to drink…).
It’s about the fact that James wants to protect your life! He is obsessed – really, absolutely and completely – with reducing any risk whatsoever of carbon monoxide poisoning or chimney fires, which could kill you and your family.
That’s why if James does seem to give you a lecture, please do listen to what he says! He is a master chimney sweep – a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps – and he has your best interests at heart.
Any advice given by James the Sweep is professional, supported by his vast industry experience and focused on keeping you and your loved ones entirely safe, so that you can enjoy indoor fires with peace of mind.
James is the Master Sweep for Royal Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Pembury, Sevenoaks, Hadlow, Hildenborough, and Paddock Wood.
To get in touch with Southborough’s chimney sweep, if you’re a resident there – James is the Master Sweep in that town as well, and he also sweeps chimneys in Crowborough.
Sherlock Holmes, fireplaces and Crowborough!
“My dear fellow,” said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, “life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”
Perhaps a visitor to Crowborough would find it ‘strange’ to realise that Holmes had strong literary links to the town. The statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross bears witness to the fact that Doyle spend many years in the area – some 23 years, in fact, at Windlesham Manor.
Crowborough residents rely on James the Sweep to sweep their chimneys. For the simple reason that James the Sweep is the Master Sweep for Crowborough – sweeping chimneys, checking flues and flue liners; and making sure all is in order with solid fuel appliances and open fires.
How does that relate to Sherlock Holmes? Because the Holmes stories, created by Crowborough resident Doyle, are full of action taking place around fireplaces. Note the ‘either side of the fire’ in the quote above – throughout the great detective’s stories, the fireplace is a silent witness to all that happens.
We find Holmes relaxing by the fireplace with Watson. The tongues of fire move Holmes to deep thought and reflection. He plays the violin by it and receives his stream of visitors too, both good and bad. Think of Dr Grimesby Roylott bending the fire poker in The Adventure of the Speckled Band (which Holmes later bends back) or the fiery quarrel in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, which results in a lethal blow, also using a fire poker.
Next time (or first time!) you visit Crowborough, do take time to reflect on the connections between the town and Sherlock Holmes – and fireplaces! And if you have just moved to the town, do contact the Crowborough chimney sweep, James the Sweep for any chimney inspections or sweeping.
It’s easy to contact James the Sweep in Crowborough, your local chimney sweep. Find the contact details here.
If you want to find out more about Conan Doyle’s time in Crowborough, contact the Conan Doyle (Crowborough) Establishment.
Now’s the time to book your chimney sweep!
We’re living through a strange time in the middle of Winter right now (Jan/Feb). The season of Spring is officially two months away (it starts on March 20) and folk tend to be split between thinking it won’t be long until the sunny weather arrives and trying to keep warm as the weather doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
The reality, of course, is that Spring is still a long time away and even when it does arrive, that doesn’t mean we can all grab our surfboards and bottles of beer and head to the nearest beach.
It’s a fact that the cold weather is going to be around for a long time yet so do keep your indoor fires burning! But make sure they are burning efficiently and safely (see tips on BurnRight) to save money and save the environment.
Meanwhile here in this little corner of Kent, in the Tunbridge Wells to Southborough to Maidstone area, to be exact, residents are busy making hay while the Sun does NOT shine. Meaning – we’re all being industrious and working hard.
For James the Sweep that means preventing residents from suffering serious injury, even death, as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by unswept chimneys.
You may spot James’ van (aka ‘Sooty’) driving around the region, checking and cleaning the chimneys for residents’ homes and local businesses such as pubs and restaurants.
If so, do give James a wave! And don’t forget that it’s not too late to book an appointment with James. It costs only £60 for a standard sweep for woodburning stoves and open fires.
That hard-to-beat price includes not only the full sweep after checking the condition of the chimney flue, but a professional smoke test to ensure the chimney and indoor fire is working properly. It ALSO includes a certificated officially approved by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps (James is a member) which can often be used for the purposes of household insurance.
So… whether it’s a cold Winter or a cold Spring… rest assured that James the Sweep is available to keep your chimney in good condition wherever you live in Kent or East Sussex. All you have to do is phone 07587 134589 to book an appointment.
James the Sweep covers the areas of Paddock Wood, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Hadlow, Pembury, Tonbridge, Southborough, Tonbridge, Crowborough, Hildenborough and Maidstone.
James the Sweep: affordable, professional and recommended
James the Sweep is affordable, professional and recommended. That’s quite a statement to make, isn’t it? Talk about blowing your own trumpet. Or rather, in this case, sweeping your own flue. And it sounds like the sort-of marketing ploy you’d expected from a local businessman.
But the question isn’t whether or not James the Sweep is being a bit self-indulgent by making such claims. Rather, the question is simply this: is it true?
Is it true that James is affordable for householders and businesses? Chimney sweeping is an unregulated profession, so is it true that James is professional? And ‘recommended’ – what does that mean? Who are these people who’ve recommended James as a chimney sweep?
Let’s break it down and start with ‘affordable’. £60. That’s the standard cost for chimney sweeping. What does that include? It includes a full sweep after a site inspection, a smoke test and a certificate issued by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, which can be used for some household insurances. James will also use fresh dust sheets for every job. £60 – it’s not a lot of money to keep your household safe from the very real danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Secondly, is James professional? As stated, chimney sweeping isn’t regulated by authorities. Yet some chimney sweeps take the profession very seriously indeed, and James is one of them. James is a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps and he is also approved by HETAS, the national body working for consumer safety.
Recommended – we like to respect customers’ right to autonomy but consider these comments, which are 100 per cent authentic, about the services given by James the Sweep across Kent and East Sussex: ‘very thorough, punctual, clean and a particularly friendly chap’ (Matthew); ‘quick, efficient and very little mess. Remarkably good value’ (Fiona); ‘Quick, clean, friendly and very knowledgeable’ (Howard); ‘good service, very clean and a nice guy’ (Sonya); ‘no mess – no fuss and no dust. Just good service’ (Maiwenn) and ‘Top man, top service and not too expensive! Two thumbs up!’ (Will Griffiths).
James the Sweep looks after chimneys for customers in Hadlow, Tunbridge Wells, Crowborough, Southborough, Hildenborough, Tonbridge, Pembury, Maidstone, Seven Oaks and Paddock Wood. And when it’s said that James is affordable, professional and recommended – that’s a simple fact. A fact about this Master Sweep, which is 100 per cent true! Why not book a sweep with James today and see for yourself?
James the Sweep supports the BurnRight campaign helping consumers to burn fires efficiently, which is better for the environment.
Chimney sweeping makes ‘a big difference’ – Defra Clean Air Strategy 2019
THE HEADLINES have been buzzing this week about the launch of Defra’s Clean Air Strategy 2019.
Some people believe the government is trying to get rid of stoves and chimney sweeping will soon be a thing of the past. Nothing could be further than the truth!
The aim of the strategy is to tackle air pollution, seen as the biggest ‘environmental risk to human health in the UK’. Indoors fires comprise 38% of primary emissions of particulate matter (non-gaseous substance). Burning coal in open fires is a big worry because it emits dangerous sulphur dioxide.
However, that doesn’t mean indoor fires are going to be stopped. It means instead a change in direction – the most polluting fuels, such as domestic coal will prohibited (if the law is passed). New fuels from recycled goods will be tested before being made available. But you will still be able to use fuels such as wood (make sure it has a moisture content of 20 per cent or less). Ask James the Sweep for guidance.
So… the strategy is clear that  you can still use your stove and  you can use certain types of fuel for that. There’s another point that  ‘only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022’.
But the strategy is equally clear that chimney sweeping is a key weapon in tackling air pollution.
Defra says: “A local professional sweep can help consumers get it right, ensuring that they get the most from their stoves and provide advice on optimum operation. This can help save money and avoid chimney fires. It is recommended that a chimney is swept twice a year.
“Using cleaner fuels, in a cleaner appliance which is installed by a competent person, knowing how to operate it efficiently, and ensuring that chimneys are regularly swept, will all make a big difference.”
James the Sweep is on standby to clean your chimney if you live Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Tonbridge or nearby areas of Kent – or East Sussex, such as Crowborough. Get in touch today!
HOW do chimneys pose a carbon monoxide risk?
They don’t… in themselves. Chimneys, in the context of domestic fires, are structures with space inside, which pose no risk of carbon monoxide if they are kept clean. They exist to get rid of carbon monoxide and other dangerous gas – and that’s the problem. Chimneys MUST be maintained to work efficiently and to keep your family safe from the threat of gas poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, deadly gas produced by fire which needs to be expelled to the outside atmosphere in a safe manner. Notice the emphasis on ‘needs’ – the importance of that cannot be overstated. Lives depend upon it, in fact.
A chimney is basically an escape route for carbon monoxide and other gasses produced by the fire. But like all escape routes, they need to be kept clear. Soot and other residue is also produced as a result of the fire and this sticks onto the flue or flue liner. Imagine the effect of that overtime if the chimney is not swept! The soot layers build and build – meanwhile, you can light your fire and, if the chimney isn’t clear of soot, the dangerous gas has no escape route. Carbon monoxide will roll back down the chimney into your room, like a snake full of poison. That sounds far fetched but this gas will kill you. It’s a fact.
Indoor fires are a safe, wonderful heating method. And the look and appeal of a fire stove or open fire in the home is simply beautiful. Nothing beats sitting in front of your fireplace, relaxing with a glass of wine in hand (if the kids are in bed!). But the safety aspect is ONLY reliable if your chimney is swept regularly. That’s why James the Sweep cleans chimneys for residents in Southborough, Pembury, Maidstone, Paddock Wood, Hadlow, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Crowborough, Hildenborough… anywhere near Tunbridge Wells! Let’s keep your loved ones safe so that you can enjoy your fire with peace of mind – BOOK A SWEEP NOW!
If my stove’s safe, why’s there soot in my chimney?
Wood stoves should certainly be safe if they are installed by a proper HETAS-approved installer or similar professional chimney technician. If not, you could be in trouble. A professional installer will ensure the chimney is swept properly and there are no issues in the flue or flue liner (replacing if needed) and also ensure that the measurements of the stove, chimney and nearby room all complement each other. He or she will guide you in the correct choice of stove and then install it into the fireplace area. If you don’t have a chimney, a twin-walled system can be set-up for you.
So, let’s say the stove is installed and you’ve been enjoying indoor fires for a while. Why can there still be an issue with soot in the chimney? If you don’t like reading technical stuff… time to brush out of this blog and read another article on the James the Sweep website instead (the blog about Mary Poppins Returns is a lot less technical!).
For those who like tech – stoves have 75 per cent more oomph than open fires (oomph isn’t a technical word but it conveys a better sense of power, compared to boring old ‘more efficient’). That means the nearby room receives more fuel heat and gas in the flue tends to be colder. This results in tar condensation. Generally, the atmospheric temperature is 50C for flue gas condensates (the tar liquid created by condensation) as a result of burning coal or wood. This all means that soot (tar, acid and other yucky stuff, to use another technical term) will be present in the chimney. Wood also has less oomph when it comes to burn rate, compared to coal, so you’d be likely to see an increase in condensates as a result.
Tars and acids will eat into your chimney structure and cause damage. Any cracks caused also carry the risk of leaking gas created by the fire, such as lethal carbon monoxide, into your home. Soot of course, blocking the flue, also means that gas cannot escape safely to the outside atmosphere – it will roll back down your chimney and into the room. It can kill you and your loved ones.
This all sounds dramatic and you may think, ‘Well, if it’s that risky, why bother with a stove or even an indoor fire?’ That’s understandable but the good news is that you don’t need to worry at all IF – and this really is an important ‘IF’ – you ask for advice from a chimney sweep, preferably a member of the Guild of Master Sweeps. A professional sweep will not only sweep the chimney to clear soot and other condensates. He or she will also keep a regular check on the set-up (ask for advice on how often it all needs checking) to ensure that it is safe to use. If there has been any damage, sometimes getting a flue relined (after remedial works to the chimney) or a new flue liner, a twin wall insulated flue pipe to keep the flue gas warmer, for example, would be appropriate.
The key message here is this: if you’re concerned about tar or acid deposits in your chimney, as a result of the stove, don’t worry. It can be remedied but you MUST contact your local chimney technician, ASAP. Make sure any chimney sweep is a member of the Guild of Master Sweeps. And if it’s an installer, check that he or she is registered with HETAS.
If you live in Kent or East Sussex – just get in touch with James the Sweep. James oversees chimneys for customers in Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Crowborough, Hadlow, Hildenborough, Paddock Wood, Pembury and Maidstone.
Tonbridge: a proper Kentish town
The interesting aspects of the market town of Tonbridge are explored elsewhere on the James the Sweep website. So, we don’t want to repeat all the facts and figures about this quaint settlement just four miles from Royal Tunbridge Wells, in the Tonbridge and Malling District of Kent.
Even so, Tonbridge deserves to be recognised as a cultural leader when it comes to presenting Kentishness (if such a word exists) in Kent. It’s the heady concoction of the Tonbridge Castle and River Medway, alongside the busy community, which evokes that picturesque idealism. The icing on the Kentish cake is the surrounding countryside, especially the hop farms that are the epitome of the county of Kent. What can beat the verdant splendour of the hops with that heady, unique aroma, which can almost make you feel a bit giddy?
Whatever season you find yourself in – Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer – the changing landscape around Tonbridge shows the best side of Kent in all its glory. Of course, from a chimney sweep’s point of view, it’s the Autumn and Winter that hold a particular appeal as we observe the peaceful whirls of smoke from chimneys across the town. It gives a sense of peace of mind – as long as those chimneys have been swept properly. [And if they haven’t, contact James the Sweep right now. Remember that a standard sweep costs only £60. Not a lot of money to keep your family safe!]
James finds that customers in Tonbridge always have a sunny disposition. It’s that sort of place where a knock on the door is met with a smile, a warm invite to step over the threshold into a hearty home where the kettle is no doubt boiling and a cup of proper English brew is soon pressed into the hand. Kentish folk are mainly friendly folk and this sense of hospitality is perfectly found in the dwellings and streets of Tonbridge.
James loves sweeping chimneys for customers in Tonbridge. He’s been doing so for many years and will continue to do so for many years ahead!
Experience always counts with chimney sweeping
James the Sweep has been sweeping chimneys for customers in Kent and East Sussex for more than 20 years. That’s a long time! Imagine how many chimneys James has swept over the years. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds! For James, sweeping chimneys has become something of a second nature. He can get the job done quickly and efficiently.
That’s not to say there’s always something new to learn. The wider area of Tunbridge Wells contains all sorts of buildings – castles, manor houses, family homes, business premises – and each set-up can throw different challenges. Birds’ nests for example, or perhaps some chimney remedial work. Even so, James is able to employ his experience in tackling any tasks. When he leaves a site, the chimney will be in properly working order and all necessary safety checks will be made. If further work is required – repairs to the chimney stack for example, or the need for a new flue liner – James will give professional advice. The customer is kept informed at all times.
Experience is important. There are a lot of cowboy traders out there or so-called sweeps who just don’t have the knowhow, who don’t put the customer’s best interest at heart. James is an official member of the Guild of Master Sweeps. He’s known by many people across Kent as the premier chimney sweep for the county, from T Wells to Southborough, to further afield. Friendly and personable, James is serious about keeping residents and business owners safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Pick up a phone directory or Google it – and you’ll find a number of chimney sweeps advertising services in Kent and Sussex. The difference with James is that he really is experienced. So, when you ask him to sweep your chimney (standard charge is only £60), you’re in a safe pair of hands with a tradesman who is proven to have your safety as his foremost priority. Look at these testimonials and see for yourself what people are saying about James the Sweep.
Remember – James is a member of the Guild of Master Sweeps with more than 20 years experience sweeping chimneys in the areas of Kent and Sussex. He keeps himself informed about the latest techniques in cleaning chimneys and the best practises employed by the industry.
Stay safe during Christmas celebrations
‘Tis the season to be jolly. Or at least, it soon will be. And even if you read this after festive celebrations are over, there’s always other events such as Epiphany, Easter etc. Or birthdays. Let’s be honest, when it’s gloomy and clouded-over and you feel that slight shiver walking down the street (even if you’ve bought a furry coat from one of the many splendid shops in Tunbridge Wells, Southborough, Maidstone, etc) – you will be thinking about huddling indoors.
And we all know what hudding indoors means. It means enjoying a fire indoors! Winter gives a great excuse for a celebration. In fact, several celebrations. In fact, celebrating by yourself (and why not? What could be better than nursing a glass of port with Mr Tom your pussy cat or Fido your faithful hound curled on your lap, while staring thoughtfully into the dancing flames of your indoor fire?).
Let’s enjoy safe celebrations, however. Make sure your chimney is swept by James the Sweep (if you live in Kent or Sussex) before using your stove or open fire. That’s safety tip number 1. Obvious – but so often overlooked. Not having your chimney swept regularly results in a dangerous risk of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Check too that your stove appliance or open fire are in good working order. Any doubts at all, ask your installer (or call James the Sweep if you’re in the Tunbridge Wells area). Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for stoves.
That was tip 2. Equally important is tip 3 the last tip: common sense precautions. That means don’t store dry wood near the indoor fire. You have probably seen photos in magazines or the internet of the so-called ideal home, with a lounge, a fireplace with a lit fire and stacks of wood all around the area of the appliance. It’s a fire hazard. Wood should have a moisture content of 20 per cent or less and be placed outside in a proper log store until ready for use. Be aware too of other fire hazards in the room – anything else flammable near the fire or anything lying on the floor (specially with kids), which could cause someone to trip over.
And if you have a celebration party (even if it’s just and the cat or dog) make sure that there are no crazy antics near the fireplace. Have fun… but be careful!
Sevenoaks: surprising nuggets
James the Sweep enjoys his role as Master Chimney Sweep for Sevenoaks, the flagship town which gives its name to the Sevenoaks District. There are many facets of Sevenoaks which are known to the wider public with its splendid shopping centre and busy community. And, of course, the famous oak trees that were sadly ravaged by the great storm of 1987.
But there are also aspects of Sevenoaks which may surprise you or historical nuggets, which have been largely forgotten. Residents who have lived in the town for many years will likely know these historical events. Yet they add to the overall charm of this wonderful town, known for its landscape of quaint houses with chimneys galore located in a beautiful backdrop of the Kentish countryside.
There are so many stories to choose from, of course, but here are just a few.
The Beatles [pictured] filmed scenes for their hits Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane in Knole Park. It happened in February 1967 when the famous stars took over part of the park to do some surreal things such as covering a piano in paint and leaping from dead trees. It wasn’t the only time that a location in the county of Kent featured in the Beatles’ videos. The pop group’s ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ involved filming at West Malling airfield over a five-day period with scenes such as a tug of war with local kids and a big dance scene. There were extra scenes shot at a newsagent in Maidstone’s High Street.
Knole Park was also connected to someone with a huge influence on the nation’s (arguably) most popular sport. Everyone knows the story about ‘Lumpy Stevens’, the first great bowler, bowling poor John Small an impressive thrice right through the stumps – which led to a middle stump being set up to stop this reoccurring, somewhat changing the game. It happened in 1777 although Sevenoaks has been playing host to cricket games since 1734.
Some people may not realise that Lumpy Stevens was, in fact, a gardener at Knole Park. Not only that, but other famous cricketers of the time were also employed by the estate: William Bowe, John Minshull and Joseph Miller.
And here’s another unusual fact related to cricket, while we’re on the subject. Sevenoaks Vine Cricket Club has a cricket bat dating back to 1745. Fair enough, you may think but why is that special? Because it was made by the Petts, a well-known family in Sevenoaks who are believed to be the first ever manufacturer of cricket bats.
Well, this is a short snapshot of interesting facts about Sevenoaks. If you know of any others, do let James the Sweep know and we can post them here in the blogs section of his website!
… She’s back!
Though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke
In this ‘ole wide world there’s no ‘appier bloke
Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee!
Well, there’s a lot of excitement at the prospect of Mary Poppins Returns being released in cinemas on December 19 – some 54 years after the original film! Dick Van Dyke, now aged 92, stars again in the sequel as Mr Dawes Jr (having portrayed Mr Dawes Sr in the first film).
Of course, it is Bert the chimney sweep that Mr Van Dyke is most remembered for. Dancing on the rooftops, whirling his chimney brush and singing with gusto – Bert has become something of a cheerful symbol for sweeps. The public, even where James the Sweep works in Tunbridge Wells and nearby Kent outside of London, often conjure up the image of energetic Bert when they consider the imaginary notion of a chimney sweep.
Alas, Bert won’t be reappearing in Mary Poppins Returns. Street lamplighter Jack (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda) takes on the role of cheeky chap and romantic companion to Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins. ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’ looks set to be the equivalent of ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ with Jack and other leeries (streetlamp lighters) doing a dance and song, which will definitely evoke memories of Bert and his fellow sweeps dancing and singing ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ in the original movie.
James the Sweep enjoys the romantic myth of chimney sweeping, which extends to other literary forms not just Ol’ Bert created by PL Travers in Mary Poppins. It has its origins of course in the Victorian era, when the plight of child sweeps slowly gained public attention. Sweeps were seen as something mysterious, belonging to another world. Even so, despite all the fun dancing and singing, chimney sweeping is a serious business that saves lives from the deadly risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. James the Sweep, although he always has a smile on his face, takes that professional challenge very seriously indeed.
I choose me bristles with pride
Yes, I do
A broom for the shaft and a brush for the flume
Up where the smoke is all billered and curled
‘Tween pavement and stars is the chimney sweep world
Carbon monoxide is a very real danger in your home!
We have to take on board, with the utmost respect, warnings about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s the key message James the Sweep gives to customers, wherever they live in Kent or East Sussex: Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Southborough or Maidstone and Crowborough, etc. It’s such an important message as well. Taking this seriously will protect your life, and the lives of your loved ones.
Talking about carbon monoxide in this context sounds like marketing spin. After all, James is the Master Sweep for T Wells and nearby areas. So, of course he would encourage people to sweep chimneys. This is his livelihood, after all… Yes, true. But James the Sweep is very serious about his profession and the importance of his profession.
If a firefighter gave you advice, do we say, ‘Well, he would, wouldn’t he? That’s his job.’ No! We respect the professional advice given by the fire service. Yes, James the Sweep wants to sweep your chimney. Yes, it’s his ‘job’. However, why does he choose chimney sweeping as his job? For the simple reason that he’s passionate about protecting people’s lives from unsafe indoor fire set-ups. Who would you rather see at your front door? A chimney sweep or a firefighter? The sweep, of course! Prevention is always better than cure.
Chimney sweeping is a very serious profession. If your chimney is not swept regularly, you and your family could die. It’s a blunt but true fact. Fire gases need a safe passage away from the indoor fire and out to the atmosphere. If the chimney is unclean with soot residue blockages, that stops carbon monoxide leaving. The invisible gas will roll back down the flue and back down inside your home. Read more here about the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Book a chimney sweep with James the Sweep today and keep safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning!